The Financial Times (p1) reports that Millbank officials hope Mr Livingstone will be heavily defeated in a contest with Mr Dobson and Glenda Jackson, the former transport minister, before an electoral college of MPs, MEPs, trade unions and party members.
But with union support for Mr Livingstone cancelling out Mr Dobson's support among MPs, 69,000 unpredictable party activists will have the last say.
Mr Blair said yesterday: 'I understand the attraction of Ken as a personality, but when he was in charge of the the London Labour Party in the 1980s we were a by-word for extremism, seen as anti-law and order and hopeless on business. We were completely unelectable. I don't want us going back to those days.'